'Mayia Cottage' in Aigialeia hills  

Peloponnese, Greece

concept / design by George Karatzas

(additional images upcoming)

The hills of Aigialeia province are predominately cultivated with olive trees and vineyards. Small cottages are scattered throughout the landscape to serve as a resting shelter during harvesting periods. This 5x10 m. stone cottage was situated on a small plateau at the edge of an olive grove, enjoying a panoramic and unobstructed view of the Corinthian bay. 

The concept of the renovation consists of two phases. Firstly, the restoration of the existing unit recycling the local stone of the structure; and secondly in the future, the addition of a new living space in order to provide extra surface and a re-organization of the bedrooms. 

The longitudinal side of the existing structure was running across the NE-SW axis, creating the access to the plateau from the uphill SW side, a narrow passage at the edge of the cliff on the NW side, a wider veranda on the SE side with the main interior-exterior connection both visually and functionally, and a more private terrace on the downhill NE side enjoying the panoramic and infinity view towards the bay. These carefully thought-out arrangements of the micro-terrain by the vernacular usage for decades were punctuated and revitalised. 

The new kitchen space was placed on the SW with the main entrance; the living room was placed on the NE with the infinity view; a bathroom was placed in the middle to separate the two main spaces on the NW side that required minimum openings and protection from the western sun; and a corridor was placed on the SE side to provide the main opening to the verandas in phase one and the connection to the future living space in phase two. The saltbox roof was chosen to create an additional attic space within it. The earthworks needed for the veranda made space for a small storage underneath and gradual landscaping steps on both sides connecting the vegetable garden. 

Cornerstones, window headers, landscaping steps, roof brick fascia, retaining walls, furnishing, and other building material were also used from recycled material where suitable. The 50 cm. stone walls were the main load-bearing structure with an additional reinforced concrete frame to support the side of the larger openings. Aluminium frames replaced the old windows in an olive grey colour to relate with the grove.

In this difficult developmental period of Greece, both clients and designers are looking for economical solutions that, at the same time, take advantage of the rich natural and vernacular resources available locally and regionally throughout the country, and by doing so also (re)discover the forgotten but not lost simplicity and cosy modesty of the rural cottage.